A discussion meeting was organized with leading intellectuals and activists in the area of Allappy on the issue of Dalit-Adivasi land rights. Dr. Issac Thomas, the former finance minister in the government of Kerala, supported Jansatyagra by stating that the best approach for sustainable reduction of poverty and promoting equality is land-reform. Ownership of land counters inequality in a traditional hierarchical caste-based society like India thereby promoting equality, he said. Hence Land-distribution can be a social leveler and play an important role in social change towards a more equitable society.
K.Venu a leading intellectual argued that despite the highly successful land-reform in Kerala, redistribution of surplus land has reached a stagnation point. Hence there isn’t new land-redistribution among the tribals and adivasis in the last two decades. He added that the State is repressing popular movements for land-distribution and Chengara and Mutthanga are two classical examples of such state repression. He also argued that a land-reform process is incomplete until we look at it from the perspective of market-oriented agriculture and livelihood. He felt that the Punjab land-reform model is a better example of a successful reform instead of the commonly accepted models of Kerla and West Bengal.
M.A Kuttappan, a former M.L.A in the Kerala legislative assembly argues that the government has a condescending attitude towards dalits and adivasis and this can be seen in the way land-distribution is carried out among the two groups. While dalits are entitled for 50 decimals of homestead land, the government tries to get away with giving them only 20 decimals. Similarly, while adivasis in other states have been getting up to 10 acres as part of land-reform, adivasis in Kerala were given only 1 acre. The government is not discussing the ceiling on plantations a nd is extending maximum exemptions to these groups. This is further worsening the land-situation.
K.K Sajee also an ex-M.L.A said that in the last 10 years, dalits and adivasis have been settled in 25000 and 5000 exclusive colonies respectively. This has an effect of constricting their socio-economic-political lives and has limited their growth and development.
Dalit activists Sunny and Rekha made a few interesting observations regarding the politics of activism on behelf of dalits and adivasis. They observed that non-dalits and non-adivasis have been leading dalit and adivasi movements in Kerala and made an urgent call to question such representation and leadership. They countered a recommendation of preventing transfer of adivasi land to a non-adivasi, made by the National Land-Reform Committee as it makes the adivasi a second-class citizen.